by Neil Bauman, Ph.D.
A mother wrote:
I read your article on the Internet concerning sudden sensorineural hearing loss (SSHL). My daughter lost her hearing in her right ear when she was 12 years old. We believe it was due to a virus. The Doctor told us at the time, that she could have an implant but to wait because in about 10 years a new treatment would be available. He said a shot was being developed that would stimulate the nerve endings to “grow” and she would get her hearing back. I have yet to find any information about this treatment on line. Have you ever heard of it? My daughter is just finishing her first year of college now. She has learned to live with the deafness of her right ear, but still remembers the new treatment the Doctor told her about, and if possible, would like to have it done.
Your doctor was being pie-in-the-sky optimistic. What he was talking about back then is basically hair cell regeneration, and now 7 or 8 years later it is still 20 or 25 years away if it ever happens, according to the researchers I have talked with. There are no guarantees that all the research they are doing will ultimately prove successful, or even successful enough to begin human trials. At this time, they are moving ahead in the belief that their research will ultimately prove successful. Maybe when your daughter is 40 or 50 it will be available. But it certainly isn’t here yet.
Because your daughter has normal hearing in one ear, she isn’t eligible for a cochlear implant in her deaf ear. However, there are three special kinds of hearing aids that can help her overcome her single-sided deafness.
First, there are CROS aids. These special hearing aids basically take the sound from the deaf side of the head and route it to the good ear. That is why they are called CROS aids—which stands for “Contralateral Routing Of Sound”. You can learn more about CROS aids in my short article called “What are CROS and Bi-CROS Hearing Aids?“.
Second, there is the BAHA (Bone Anchored Hearing Aid). In this case, a titanium post is screwed into the mastoid bone behind the ear, and when it heals, a “hearing aid” is snapped on to this post. The amplified sounds vibrate this post which passes these sounds to the good ear via bone conduction. You can learn more about the BAHA here.
Third, the newest kid on the block is the TransEar hearing aid. This is a BTE (behind-the-ear) hearing aid with a difference. You wear it on your deaf side. The TransEar has a special ear mold with a miniature oscillator embedded in it. The ear mold fits tightly in the ear canal and vibrates the skull bone, thus passing these sounds to the good ear via bone conduction, much like the BAHA does. You can learn more about the TransEar here.
In addition to these three devices, there are a number of “tricks” a person with single-sided deafness can use to help them hear better. For example, in meetings and classes, the person should sit to the side of the room so that their deaf ear is towards the wall. That way their good ear hears into the whole room. No one can then talk from their deaf side. In like manner, if possible, they should arrange their office so that people have to approach and speak to them from their hearing side.